Potential risk of zoonotic transmission from young swine to human: seroepidemiological and genetic characterization of hepatitis E virus in human and various animals in Beijing, China

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SUMMARY.The aim of this study was to further investigate the prevalence of infection and genotype of hepatitis E virus (HEV) among different species of animals, people whose works are related to pigs and the general population in the suburb of Beijing, China. Serum and faecal samples were collected from 10 animal species and humans. Anti-HEV was detected by enzyme immunoassays (EIA); HEV RNA was amplified by reverse transcription–nested polymerase chain reaction (RT-nPCR) method. PCR products were cloned and sequenced. The isolated swine HEV sequences were analysed phylogenetically. The positive rates of serum anti-HEV in swine, cattle, milk cow, horse, sheep, donkey, dog, duck, chicken, pig farm workers and slaughterhouse workers, and general population were 81.17% (802/988), 25.29% (66/261), 14.87% (40/269), 14.29% (40/280), 9.30% (53/514), 0 (0/25), 0 (0/20), 2.53% (8/316), 3.03% (7/231), 58.73% (37/63), 35.87% (66/184) and 20.06% (538/2682), respectively. The anti-HEV prevalence in adult swine (≥6 months) and younger swine (≤3 months) was 91.49% (591/646) and 61.7% (211/342), respectively. The positive rate of HEV RNA in young swine faeces was 47.94% (93/194). All 93 isolates from the younger swine shared 87.8–100% nucleotide homology with each other and had identities of 75.6–78.9%, 73.9–76.1%, 76.4–80.6% and 83.1–95.0% with the corresponding regions of genotypes 1–4 HEV, respectively. Phylogenetic analysis showed that all HEV isolates belong to genotype 4, subgenotype 4d. These results suggest a potential risk of zoonotic transmission of HEV from younger swine to farmers who rear pigs.

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